Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Summer and Sand

I've written about Charlotte before. Here she is with a bunch of us kids. I'm sitting on her lap.
Notice I'm the only one who's barefoot.

Charlotte was a long time family friend. She's on the left, with my mother. Mom was about 17 or 18 years old. They are holding doves.

Charlotte, who was several years older than my grandmother, was my first best friend. She had been a Suffragette, had written book reviews for the New York Times, and was their first female poetry editor. She was part of the famous Algonquin Round Table, hanging out with the likes of Dorothy Parker and company.

She introduced my sister and me to books: The Secret Garden, the fairytales of Oscar Wilde, Little Brother and Little Sister (a collection of Grimm fairytales illustrated by Arthur Rackham which was given to her in 1919 and which I have) Irish Fairy Tales by James Stephens and A Doorway to Fairyland by Laurence Housman (I have these books too) to name a few.

She introduced us to music: Gilbert and Sullivan comes immediately to mind, memories of all of us singing along with the H. M. S. Pinafore...

And she introduced us to poetry. Below is probably our all time favorite. It was so true for us, who lived near the ocean, who went almost daily to the beach. And I thought, since summer is almost on us, I'd share it, because some of you might get to (or have been to) the beach and you'd identify with it.


by Phyllis McGinley

Oh, not by sun and not by cloud
And not by whippoorwill, crying loud,
And not by the pricking of my thumbs,
Do I know the way that the summer comes.
Yet here on this seagull-haunted strand,
Hers is an omen I understand -

Sand on the beaches,
Sand at the door,
Sand that screeches
On the new-swept floor;
In the shower, sand for the foot to crunch on;
Sand in the sandwiches spread for luncheon;
Sand adhesive to son and sibling,
From wallet sifting, from pockets dribbling;
Sand by the beaker
Nightly shed
From odious sneaker;
Sand in bed;
Sahara always in my seaside shanty
Like the sand in the voice
of J. Durante.

Winter is mittens, winter is gaiters
Steaming on various radiators.
Autumn is leaves that bog the broom.
Spring is mud in the living room
Or skates in places one scarcely planned.
But what is summer, her seal in hand?

Sand in closets,
Sand on the stair,
Desert deposits
In the parlor chair;
Sand in the halls like the halls of the ocean;
Sand in the soap and the sun-tan lotion;
Stirred in the porridge, tossed on the greens,
Poured from the bottoms of rolled-up jeans;
In the elmy street
On the lawny acre;
Glued to the seat
Of the Studebaker.
Wrapped in the folds of the Wall Street Journal;
Damp sand, dry sand,
Sand eternal.

When I shake my garments at the Lord’s command,
What will I scatter in the Promised Land?


  1. You have the absolute coolest pictures - and stories to go with them. Dorothy Parker! She was my absolute favorite author during my teens, and for my eighteenth birthday, I actually spent the night in the Plaza Hotel as a kind of celebration of her.

    Great poem.

  2. Last week I checked out twelve books, among them 'The Complete Dorothy Parker' (I think that's the title) which I'm steadily working my way towards. Like Anne, I've always loved Dorothy Parker -- her snarky humor, her quick wit. The only thing I'm not quite so crazy about is her love of Hemingway, but I figure we all have our quirks.

    And we've got a LOT of sand here too. I really don't want it in my salad greens...

  3. I love your old photos. Charlotte sounds like a wonderful role model for you!
    Great poem, though I'm not fond of sand...I love sandy beaches. Love them. I just can't stand when the kids come in all sandy into the house!

  4. Wow. I love that poem. I never read it before. I can almost feel the sand everywhere and I'm picturing myself in a beach house. Oh how I'd love a beach house.

    Your pictures are fabulous. I love that Charlotte and your mother are casually holding doves.

    Charlotte sounds like an amazing woman. A wonderful best friend to have.

  5. What a beautiful poem. And like everyone else, I LOVE seeing these old pictures, Bish! Thanks so much for sharing them.

  6. No wonder you became a writer with a role model like Charlotte. Count me with Suzanne--I can feel the sand everywhere. Keep the poetry coming!

  7. I love your pictures and Charlotte sounds like a wonderful, wonderful friend...

  8. How AWESOME. I adore Dorothy Parker. And frankly, I think Brenda's on to something: Charlotte sounds pretty great even without the cool Parkerian anecdote. :)

  9. It's amazing what an impression one person can leave - beautiful poem. :)

  10. Those relationships are a treasure. Charlotte sounds fascinating.

    I can relate to the poem. Remember how much sand collected in your swimwuit when you were little?

  11. I LOVE this poem! You have the best family pictures - thanks for sharing.

  12. I absolutely love this poem! Thanks!


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